Stress is a major problem for many people — a hectic, stressful job, a chaotic home life, bills to worry about and bad habits such as unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking can lead to a mountain of stress.
If your life is full of stress, there are some simple things you can do to get to a more manageable level.
Now, your life will probably never be stress-free. That’s not desirable (even if it was possible) because stress is something that challenges you and helps you grow—when it’s at a reasonable level. But when stress gets too high, it causes you to be unhappy and unhealthy.
One of the keys to success is taking a realistic, gradual approach to change. How do you do it? One change at a time. Change one habit a month and gradually, over the course of a year or two, you will find you have made long-lasting changes to many things in your life.
Not all of these tips may work for you. Each person is different. Pick and choose the ones that you feel will be effective for you, and give them a try. One at a time.
- One thing at a time. This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a report? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you’re working on that report. If you’re going to review email, do only that. This takes practice, and you’ll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing and you’ll get better at it.
- Simplify your schedule. A hectic schedule is a major cause of high stress. Simplify by reducing the number of commitments in your life to the essentials. Learn to say no to the rest — and slowly get out of commitments that aren’t beneficial to you. Schedule only a few important things each day, and put space between them. Leave room for down time and fun.
- Get moving. Do something each day to be active — walk, hike, play a sport, go for a run, do yoga. It doesn’t have to be grueling to reduce stress. Just move. Have fun doing it.
- Develop one healthy habit this month. Other than getting active, improving your health overall will help with the stress. But do it one habit at a time. Eat fruits and veggies for snacks. Floss every day. Quit smoking. Cook a healthy dinner. Drink water instead of soda. One habit at a time.
- Do something calming. What do you enjoy that calms you down? For many people, it can be the “get moving” activity discussed above. But it could also be taking a nap, or a bath, or reading. Other people are calmed by housework or yard work. Some people like to meditate, or take a nature walk. Find your calming activity and try to do it each day.
- Simplify your finances. Finances can be a drain on your energy and a major stressor. If that’s true with you, find ways to simplify things. Automate savings and bill payments and debt payments. Spend less by shopping (at malls or online) much less. Find ways to have fun that don’t involve spending money.
- Have a blast! Have fun each day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Play with your kids — that can take your mind off everything and can be really hilarious. Play sports (with or without your kids). Board games are fun. Whatever you choose, be sure to laugh.
- Get creative. Throwing yourself into a creative activity is another great way to de-stress and to prevent stress. Consider writing, painting, woodworking, playing music, sketching, cooking or making pottery, interior design or building things.
- Declutter. Take 20 to 30 minutes and just go through a room, getting rid of stuff you don’t use or need anymore or find a better place for it. When you are done, you will have a nice, peaceful environment for work, play, and living. Do this a little at a time — make it one of your “fun activities.”
- Be early. Being late can be very stressful. Try to leave earlier by getting ready earlier, or by scheduling more space between events. Things always take longer than normal, so schedule some buffer time: extra time to get ready, to commute, to do errands before you need to be somewhere, to attend a meeting before another scheduled appointment. If you get somewhere early, it’s good to have some reading material.